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Opinion & Analysis

Why golf coaching works



When I started in the golf business, I knew that I wanted to teach the game. In order to do it at a high level, I shadowed some of the best instructors in golf. This was tremendously beneficial, as I learned that I needed to develop a philosophy that fit me and that I believed in. What made each instructor great was their ability to communicate with the student, and they did so in a clear and concise manner. Each also communicated a clear philosophy in which they deeply believed in.

However, what was always a bit troubling to me was the fact each and every lesson I witnessed took place on the driving range and not on the golf course where the game is played. Every lesson took place on the range, and most were based on what the student thought they needed to work on to get better. While this produced a lot of great looking golf swings, it did not always translate to lower scores, and we ALL ultimately want to shoot lower scores.

With the understanding that our ultimate goal is to shoot lower scores and enjoy the game more, I knew that I needed to teach on the golf course. This was paramount in order to learn exactly how my students played the game of golf. Getting on the golf course allowed me to take a true assessment of their game and learn their strengths and weaknesses. It allowed me to give the student what they actually need to succeed, instead of simply giving them what they thought they needed.

In 2017, I heard a podcast featuring Will Robins who was talking about the same concept and making the distinction between coaching and instruction. I believed in what he was talking about, and what separated a coach from a traditional instructor. It is exactly what I thought all along. I joined Will’s consulting group in 2017, and started to better implement what it meant to be a coach. With Will’s guidance the results I was able to achieve by fully committing to the Coaching Model speak for themselves. Coaching clearly works at all levels, let me tell you why.

It gives the student what they need, not what they want

Traditional golf instruction became so heavily focused on “customer service” and giving the student what they wanted, that it lost sight of the overall result. In order to achieve those great results, I believe in giving my students what they need. A perfect example of this is a personal trainer. Let’s say you have a wedding to go to in 2 months and you need to lose 10 lbs. That trainer is going to get you up early, make you stick to eating healthy, and make you sore after every workout to achieve the desired result. Then at the wedding, you love your personal trainer because you look and feel great. However, if that same trainer lets you dictate what you will eat, what you’ll work on during workouts, and when you’ll come back next, the trainer will fail miserably. In other words he is paid to give you what you NEED, to get you the result you want.

Assess your game on course in a team environment

In order to give my students what they need I must learn about how they play the game. Are they anxious on the first tee? Do they get mad at things they can’t control? Do they think their driver is awful, but had 44 putts? Instead of relying on guessing, I can create a game plan through the on course assessment. I like to do this in a team environment for a few reasons. It helps me simulate pressure and many times students will learn as much from each other as they do from me. It is a win-win for everyone.

Create an improvement plan and define your goals

Based on the game assessment I set up an improvement plan for each student. This allows us to set measurable goals. An example that Will Robins uses is 10 shots in 10 weeks. The goal could be anything really, most importantly it is specific to that student. I always like to set a goal based on score because that is ultimately what we want. Lower scores to make the game more enjoyable. The improvement plan gives us a common goal, it allows me to hold my players accountable, and also allows me to do whatever it takes to get them there. It also allows my players to hold me accountable to achieving their goal, creating a true partnership

Develop your mindset

As an instructor it is easy to stand on a range and tell someone what they are doing wrong. It is easy to say I know it all, because I’m the Pro. However, it is vital I get on the course and play golf with my students. I want them to see me be vulnerable, because I want them to understand like Bob Rotella said, “Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect.” We need to stop searching for the perfect golf swing. News Flash: Nobody Has It!! In other words we need to re-train our mindset, and learn that it is often what we do after a poor shot to recover that really helps us score better.

Map your plan, apply to your game and track performance

So often I see golfers trying to be perfect but they don’t know the REAL stats. All of my students know that PGA Tour players make 99 percent of putts from 3 feet, but they fail to understand that those same PGA Tour players only make 55 percent  from 6 feet. Go back to 10 feet and it drops to 35 percent. Yet time and again I see my students extremely upset after missing a 20 foot putt. The reality is most golfers are more likely to three putt from 20 feet than to make the putt. So I teach my students to simplify the game. I show them how to never make double bogey again by keeping the ball in play, and developing a great short game. When my students start to realize that the real game of golf means getting the ball holed in less shots, it changes their mindset. We use a specific scorecard to track stats that REALLY matter on the golf course and to track performance over time.

Tailor your plan through purposeful practice

When is the last time your instructor showed you exactly how to practice? Coaching is a mix of on course playing sessions and off course purposeful practice sessions. This allows me as coach the time to work on exactly what is wrong my students game. It could be anything, but most importantly it will be exactly what they need based on the playing session. Even more importantly we do both drills and tests to track progress on our practice scorecard. This allows the student to become less dependent on the instructor, and more independent, because they know what they need to do to improve each week.

Golf coaching works because it is focused on all aspects of the game, not simply technique. It teaches the golfer how to score, and how to do so under pressure in a team environment. It is results based rather than creating a “perfect golf swing.”  The concept is simple in nature, but is harder to execute and stay accountable to. For these reasons, I’d challenge you to seek out a golf coach rather than a traditional instructor for your next series of lessons.

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When Matthew began teaching in 2008 at Oakland Hills Country Club, most of his students were asking for him to fix their swing. After fixing golf swings for nearly a decade, he noticed that scores didn’t necessarily improve with the improved golf swing. He knew what his clients really wanted was to shoot lower scores! As most pros know, the key to scoring well isn’t hitting the ball further. It’s learning the REAL game of golf with one simple idea… get the ball in the hole in fewer tries than the other players. Matt started his new philosophy by taking a group of players on the golf course, observing each player’s game and developing a specific improvement plan for them while teaching them how to practice. The results were phenomenal! His players always drop shots off their game, and Matthew guarantees the results! Currently, Matthew is the PGA Head Golf Professional at Chequamegon Bay Golf Club in Ashland, WI. He is also the founder of "Great Data Golf." Born in 2016, Great Data Golf carries the vision of developing programs that make it easier to improve at the game of golf.



  1. John

    Jan 3, 2019 at 2:02 pm

    Matt is a young professional who loves to teach and his method is not only very effective but very reasonably priced. Although even excellent golfers could
    benefit, he helped me shed beau-coup strokes, and I’m old enough to collect my pension. Yes, I had to put work in, but it was a blast and Matt was a riot to work with.

  2. Patricknorm

    Jan 1, 2019 at 8:20 am

    My coach starts each session for a few minutes on the range watching me go through my bag. We then hit the course to play usually 3 or 4 holes , with the emphasis on strategy and then refining certain aspects. I cannot stress the importance of coaching. You can be foolish and spend wasteful dollars on the shiniest new toy, or you can spend time perfecting your swing flaws. You should be properly fit for the correct equipment, but if you’re a serious golfer, coaching is the best bang for your buck.

  3. stan

    Dec 31, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    Very few golfers will benefit from this kind of teaching because very few are willing to make a commitment to training and practice. Most ‘golfers’ are immature non-athletic c r u d ….. and too stupid to learn and play well. I think this truth is obvious on this gearhead geek forum where ‘love’ is the equipment buzzword.

    • Bill Simpson

      Dec 31, 2018 at 4:18 pm

      So true and the proof is annual equipment model changes to exploit the desperation of incompetent golfers and childish golf club Lovers.

  4. Ed LeBeau

    Dec 31, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    This article is titled, “Why golf coaching works”. It implies that golf coaching is something better than golf instruction. If we define golf instruction as limited to swing technique then I agree. However, there are two factors underlying this matter. First, the player may want and in fact only need to improve their technique and second few instructors are presented with players who demonstrate their technique is adequate but their scoring is deficient.

  5. Paul Mattie

    Dec 31, 2018 at 12:02 pm

    This is the way my coach operates. Unless you do the home work you didn’t progress to the next step. He also had me on course not only where he taught but he also came to my place and spent 3 hours going over my troubles spots . This led to specific changes in club selection and course management.

    • Bill Simpson

      Dec 31, 2018 at 4:23 pm

      And how long did this teaching take, 6 months and several thousand $$$$$ ?
      You could have bought a new set of golf clubs annually and feel good.

  6. Scott Saunders

    Dec 31, 2018 at 11:51 am

    Big takeaway is cost effectiveness. Most golfers considering lessons will balk at on-course fees and opt for range lessons. You’re correct that course controls are the key to lowering scoring. The answer to this would be figuring out how to evaluate each student for their on-course weaknesses so that you can coach these issues on-range or indoors.

    • Bill Simpson

      Dec 31, 2018 at 4:20 pm

      Tangible new golf clubs versus intangible golf lessons…. and the winner is…. 😛

    • Clark Williams

      Jan 2, 2019 at 5:26 pm

      One reason why Matt’s “team approach” works is that he walks with 4 players for 3-9 holes, not every week but every second or third week in a 10 week program. This reduces the individuals cost yet allows Matt to provide individual attention and learn about each player and how they actually play the game. I found it stimulating, educational, cost effective and fun. Especially good for new comers and intermediate players who want to improve and are willing to put in some time.

  7. DS

    Dec 31, 2018 at 11:40 am

    My first ‘Shank’ rating. Not that what you wrote isn’t logical and the way much improvement should happen, but it’s totally unrealistic for the average golfer to afford. When instructors are charging $275+ for a 4 – 9 hole playing lesson, PLUS greens fees, your article is nothing more than a pipe dream.

    Since I called out your pipe dream, here’s mine:
    1) For these lesson factories (I’m looking at you, GolfTec), have a ‘pay for improvement’ arrangement. I’d pay $1k to lower my handicap by 5 strokes. And with GolfTec, they can actually monitor my effort so it’s not like I’m asking to spend 90 minutes in a bay and magically improve by 5 strokes. I’ll put in the work, they put in the expertise, and the results should happen. If they don’t, then they don’t get paid or at least they take a material cut from their fees. I got an email from GolfTec and responded with this idea. I’m sure there’s no surprise that pay for results isn’t anything they’re interested in.

    2) Same hourly rates on the course as at the range. Why is Joe Pro charging $65/hr at the range but essentially $125/hr on the course? Did he suddenly get much smarter when real balls are used? I don’t think so, and this ridiculous price gouging needs to stop. Do you care about growing the game and having students get better, or is this just a way to make a fast couple of hundred bucks on your sucker student’s back?

    3) Stop being so contradictory with each other. Had a great experience in NC for a 3-day school, but they started with ‘so tired of people telling me they need to keep their head down, or they want to stop swinging over the top’. I called them out on it because so many amateurs struggle with both, including me. Their response was to bring up Annika and Stenson and say with a wry smile ‘I think we’d all agree their pretty good’. To which I said – name me another one who swings like that? Crickets. Then I said Furyk is pretty good, as was (is?) Jim Thorpe – are they going to teach those swings? It’s this kind of contradictory BS that leaves amateurs confused.

    No skin in the game, cost, and inconsistent approaches are big issues with how the game is taught today. If you pros don’t change your ways, don’t complain as we watch the game get less and less popular.

    • Matt

      Jan 2, 2019 at 2:32 pm

      I would love to learn more about your thoughts on how to improve golfers, adding a ‘skin in the game’ component. Hit me up with a DM in the forums. Strolf or email me

    • Clark Williams

      Jan 2, 2019 at 5:18 pm

      Not true, I personally worked with Matt last summer, ten weeks (actually more due to rain outs) significantly less than $500(the cost of a driver). I had a severe back issue that flared up so was unable to practice effectively yet learned a lot about my game. Many at our course who worked with Matt saw significant improvement and more importantly had a better understanding of the game and therefore enjoyed their experience more.

    • A. Commoner

      Jan 3, 2019 at 12:27 pm

      absolutely love your post

  8. Moxley

    Dec 31, 2018 at 4:19 am

    Interesting article.

    I’ve no doubt that there is a place for your style of coaching, but I think it is better suited towards younger, elite golfers. I’m not so sure this is suited to the regular mid/high capper at the golf club who just wants to fix his slice or hit it a few yards further.

    Your assertions about what golfers need starts with the assumption that success is defined as scoring better, but I think for more recreational golfers, success is simply having fun when playing with their mates. What they want is a few quick wins, something that is going to make them a little bit better without taking the fun away (i.e. clubbing down), and something to have fun working on – all of this needs to come at an affordable price, because for most, golf is just a hobby.

    Serious golfers will always need serious golfers, but the objectives won’t always be the same with the average golfer.

  9. wilbur

    Dec 31, 2018 at 12:48 am

    Great article but does the instructor/teacher/mentor help you pick out the best golf clubs for your game. Unless you have the best driver to best putter it’s all futile because the equipment is what counts in the final analysis.

    • Bill Simpson

      Dec 31, 2018 at 4:24 pm

      Bingo!!! The ‘best’ golf clubs will transform your swing and game overnight.

  10. Ryan

    Dec 30, 2018 at 9:34 pm

    Great idea and approach, but I’m sure this type of service is not cheap.

    • Bill Simpson

      Dec 31, 2018 at 4:26 pm

      Yes, not cheap….. and neither are the ‘best’ golf clubs.

  11. Obee

    Dec 30, 2018 at 8:56 pm

    Love this approach.

  12. Tom L

    Dec 30, 2018 at 6:31 pm

    Sounds great but potentially pricey

  13. Michael Deiters

    Dec 30, 2018 at 2:29 pm

    Good stuff. All “instruction” should look like this.

  14. 2putttom

    Dec 30, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    instructors I use teach on the course (when applicable) it has been beneficial and rewarding.

  15. dj

    Dec 30, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    I like your idea of a metric that is measurable.

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The Gear Dive: Vokey Wedge expert Aaron Dill



In this episode of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with Titleist Tour Rep Aaron Dill on working under Bob Vokey, How he got the gig and working with names like JT, Jordan and Brooks.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Is your driver the first “scoring club”?



I was traveling Sunday and didn’t get to watch the end of the PGA Championship, so imagine my shock Monday morning when I read what had happened on that back nine. Like most everyone, I figured Brooks Koepka had his game and his emotions completely under control and Sunday’s finish would be pretty boring and anti-climactic. Man, were we wrong!!?

As I read the shot-by-shot, disaster-by-disaster account of what happened on those few holes, I have to admit my somewhat cynical self became engaged. I realize the conditions were tough, but it still boils down to the fact that Koepka nearly lost this PGA Championship because he couldn’t execute what I call “basic golf” – hitting fairways and greens – when it counted. And Dustin Johnson lost his ability to do the same just as he got within striking distance.

I’ve long been a critic of the way the game has come to be played at the highest levels; what we used to call “bomb and gouge” has become the norm at the professional tour level. These guys are big strong athletes, and they go at it harder than anyone ever did in “the old days”. Watch closely and you’ll see so many of them are on their toes or even off the ground at impact, especially with the driver. Call me old-fashioned, but I just don’t see how that can be the path to consistent shotmaking.

So, my curiosity then drove me to the year-to-date statistics on the PGA Tour website to dive into this a bit deeper. What I found was quite interesting, and I believe can be helpful to all of you readers as you think about how to lower your handicap this season. Follow me here, as I think there are some very helpful numbers from the PGA Tour.
I’ve long contended that golf is a game of ball control . . . let’s call it shotmaking. Your personal strength profile will determine whether you are a long hitter or not, and there’s probably not a lot you can do (or will do) to change that dramatically. But PGA Tour statistics indicate that accuracy, not distance, is the key to better scoring.

The Tour leader in driving accuracy is Jim Furyk, the only guy who is hitting more than 75% of the fairways. The Tour average is under 62%, or not even 2 out of 3. That means the typical round has the tour professional playing at least 4-5 approach shots from the rough. I’m going to come back to that in just a moment and explore the “cost” of those missed fairways.

The Tour leader in greens-in-regulation is Tiger Woods at 74%, almost 3-out-of-4 . . . but the Tour average is less than 66%, or just under 2-out-of-3. I believe enlightenment comes by breaking that GIR statistic down even further.
From the fairway, the Tour leader in GIR is Justin Thomas at 85% and the worst guy at 65%, three points better than the tour average for GIR overall. Hmmmmm. From the rough, however, the best guy on Tour is Taylor Gooch at 63.4%, which is not as good as the very last guy from the fairway.

But let’s dive even a bit deeper to better understand the importance of driving accuracy. Is it true these guys are so good from the rough that hitting fairways doesn’t matter? Not according to the numbers.

From the rough in the range of 125-150 yards – a wedge for most of these guys – the tour’s best hit it 25-27 feet from the hole and only 30 tour pros are averaging inside 30 feet from that distance. But from the fairway, 25 yards further back – 150-175 yards – the tour’s best hit it inside 21-23 feet, and 160 guys are getting closer than 30 feet on average. Even from 175-200 in the fairway, the best on tour hit it closer than the best on tour from the rough 50 yards closer.

So, what do you do with this information? I encourage any serious golfer to really analyze your own rounds to see the difference in your scoring on holes where you find the fairway versus those where you don’t. I feel certain you’ll find throttling back a bit with your driver and focusing more on finding the fairway, rather than trying to squeeze a few more yards of the tee will help you shoot lower scores.

If you have the inclination to see what more fairways can do to your own scores, here’s a little experiment for you. Get a buddy or two for a “research round” and play this game: When you miss a fairway, walk the ball straight over to the fairway, and then 15 yards back. So, you’ll hit every approach from the fairway, albeit somewhat further back – see what you shoot.

Next week I’m going to follow up this “enlightenment” with some tips and techniques that I feel certain will help you hit more fairways so you can take this to the bank this season.

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Opinion & Analysis

Hot & Cold: Where strokes were won and lost at the PGA Championship



In “Hot & Cold,” we’ll be focusing each week on what specific areas of the game players excelled and disappointed in throughout the previous tournament. On Sunday, Brooks Koepka made it four wins from his last eight appearances at major championships, and here’s a look at where some of the most notable players gained and lost strokes over the four days of action at Bethpage Black.


While Brooks Koepka’s play off the tee was excellent at last week’s PGA Championship, the American utterly dominated the field with his deadly approach play. The 29-year-old led the field in New York for his approach play gaining 9.5 strokes over his competitors. In case you were wondering, this represents Koepka’s career-best performance with his irons. Check out the clubs Koepka did the damage with at Bethpage Black in our WITB piece here.

Jordan Spieth finished T3 at last week’s event, and the Texan was streets ahead of anyone for the four days with the flat-stick in hand. Spieth gained a mammoth 10.6 strokes over the field on the greens of Bethpage Black, which is over three strokes more than anyone else achieved. It was the best-putting display of the 25-year-old’s career thus far, and Spieth now heads to Colonial CC ranked first in this week’s field for strokes gained: putting over his last 12 rounds.

Dustin Johnson came agonizingly close to capturing his second major title last week, and encouragingly for DJ is that he gained strokes in all of the significant strokes gained categories. Johnson also led the field for strokes gained: off the tee, gaining 7.2 strokes over the field – his best performance in this area this year.


Bubba Watson endured a wretched two days on the greens at Bethpage Black. In just 36 holes, Watson lost 6.8 strokes to the field with the flat-stick. Even more frustrating for Watson is that he gained 6.5 strokes for the two day’s tee to green. A tale of what could have been for the two-time Masters champion.

Phil Mickelson faded badly at last week’s championship, and it was a poor display with his irons that did the damage. Lefty lost 6.3 strokes to the field for his approach play in New York, which is his worst display in this area for 2019.

It was a quick exit for Tiger Woods at Bethpage Black, and though the 15-time major champion was far from his best off the tee (losing half a stroke), it was Woods’ putting that was his undoing. Woods lost almost a stroke and a half on the greens at Bethpage – his worst display with the putter since last August.


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19th Hole